Government's plan for Catalan in classrooms: each school to adapts to its own environment

The draft of the new decree gives clues as to the Education Dpt's possible response to court ruling quarter of classes must be in Spanish

3 min
A sixth grade student taking a Catalan test at El Tomillo school

BarcelonaThe Education Department's draft of the future syllabus, to which ARA has had access, proposes to give "autonomy to schools" so that they can adapt language policy to their reality. The text proposes that each center decide "the criteria (...) for language learning (...) taking into account the linguistic composition of the student body and the sociolinguistic reality of the environment of each school". The objective is that schools pay more attention to the teaching of Catalan or Spanish depending on the use made by students and their families. This change is based on the fact that the balance between the two languages is not the same across the country. However, the goal will be the same for all the schools: "To finish compulsory education with the full mastery of Catalan and Spanish, and Occitan in Aran".

Half of the syllabus is determined by the State government and the other half by the Catalan government. Some of its aspects have to be changed as a consequence of the so-called Celaá education law. The text, which put an end to the controversial Lomce education law, was approved in December 2020 with the support of PSOE, United Podemos, PNV, Bildu and ERC. Next year the changes will begin to be applied, but, initially, only to the odd courses: 1st, 3rd and 5th of primary, 1st and 3rd of ESO, and 1st of baccalaureate or 1st of basic FP. Last week, in a videoconference with all Catalan schools' heads, the secretary of Educational Policies, Núria Mora, explained some of these changes. She explained that the Department would have liked the State's proposal to be "more daring" and said that in Catalonia "we are more advanced, we have more organisational and methodological quality". Now the Department has sent the drafts to the educational community so that they can make the contributions they deem convenient and in a few weeks they can be finally approved. These are, therefore, temporary documents that can still be modified.

One of the most important changes in the Catalan proposal is language policy, which, moreover, comes in the midst of a judicial offensive against Catalan in the classroom, following the decision of the Catalonia's High Court to consider the ruling that obliges Catalan schools to teach 25% of classes in Spanish to be final. In this section it should also be noted that from 2024 onwards, a C2 level of Catalan will be a requirement to be able to work as a teacher, as Mora announced at the meeting with the heads of Catalan schools. This requirement, in fact, was already in the Catalan education law, but had never been applied and was only taken into account as a merit. The Government's plans regarding the new language policy give clues as to what may be the Government's response to the controversial ruling on 25% of classes in Spanish. The two-month deadline for the Government to make clear how it will carry out the ruling started on 21 January.

"In the process of achievement"

In addition to the proposals on teaching in Catalan, the draft also includes some modifications regarding assessment, which will be at the end of each cycle (2nd, 4th and 6th primary). The four possible grades will be: excellent achievement, outstanding achievement, satisfactory achievement, and in the process of achievement, instead of the previous failing grade. The purpose of this change in criteria is to reinforce with the terminology the idea that teaching is continuous.

Students who have achieved the skills will obtain the secondary education certification, but those who do not reach it will also be able to obtain it if teaching staff considers that it is not an impediment to their further training. "This situation will have to be reflected in official assessment documents," the text states. If the student has not achieved the skills and the teachers consider that they have to stay down a year, they will be able to do it once, but the teachers will have to elaborate "some personalized advice" in each case. "Exceptionally," the draft warns, "a student may stay down twice in the last year, as long as they have never stayed down a year before".

The text also states that "in all documents" teachers will have to use "non-sexist and non-androcentric" language.